On the 11th of June 2017 Bunkers Hill Dairy in the beautiful Lakes District, England celebrated its first birthday selling raw, unpasteurised milk. They brand their Penrith, Cumbria business 'Udderly Good - from moo to you'.
Dairy Farmer of the Year Award
In April this year Mike Walsh was awarded the hotly-contested Dairy Farmer of the Year award in the Northern Farmer publications for successfully selling raw milk from a self-service milk bar. He was handed the top award at a ceremony attended by more than 400 leading industry professionals from across the North of England, including 29 finalists and ten category winners. The Harrogate event was hosted by former BBC Look North presenter Wendy Gibson, who said: “All our finalists were praised for the way they have reacted positively to the difficulties in their sector, but the judges particularly commended the way Mike Walsh had taken a risk in aiming at a niche market through his use of a raw milk vending machine and making his farm ‘public friendly’, as part of his strategy for seeking a way forward for his business.” (source)
The raw milk tourists and the regulars
Today the farm and its innovative 150 litre raw milk vending machine attract tourists from countries like Australia, New Zealand and even some from Japan.
They have great support from the local community too. According to the Raw Power article below, Mike say they have a lot of locals who come regularly, in particular the mum of an asthmatic lad. The boy was in and out of hospital and the consultation suggested that they try unpasteurised milk. "They come three or four times a week and the family have seen a massive improvement in the little lad's asthma."
According to another article below, Mike insists the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have been very helpful. In July 2015 the FSA Board concluded that the levels of risk associated with consumption of raw drinking milk are generally acceptable where appropriate hygiene controls are applied. However, with regard to vulnerable groups, the risk is hightened. In order for unpasteurised milk to be deemed safe and of high quality it needs to be low in coliforms and Total Viable Count (TVC). Raw milk is allowed 100 coliforms and 20,000 TVC's. The herd at Bunkers Hill Farm registered under 10 coliforms and 510 TVC's. Mike say he is confident the milk is of the highest quality. Click here to read the UK requirements for raw milk and cream.
Bunkers Hill Dairy
"Our Milk is simply filtered, cooled and voila it's ready to drink.
No heavy processing and no food miles!
The milk from our vending machine is fresh from the cow every morning.
We are sure you will enjoy the difference!"
Mike Walsh bough the farm in 2006 and today it is very much a family business. Mike farms alongside his parents Ian and Judith, son Zac, daughter Robyn and partner Neil Harrison and milk around 100 Friesian-Holstein and cross-bred Shorthorn cattle. His mum does the accounts, his partner Neil helps with the milking and his son and daughter works part-time on the farm. The farm sells the bulk of the milk to their milk buyer but they decided to invest in the technology after falling UK milk prices left some farms being paid less per litre than it cost to produce milk. The farm is now able to offer the public direct access to raw milk as a local food, as well as getting a fair price for their hard work and commitment to this industry.
"As a farmer we have always drunk raw milk. After seeing similar schemes elsewhere in the country, I thought I wonder if its something we can do too."
Local newspapers have written many articles about the farm and can be viewed in the images below. There are also some online publications listed at the bottom of this page.
For a short scenic tour through the farm gate to the raw milk vending machine see this video or see the video about the farm's raw milk diversification below.
Raw Milk Testimonials:
"I have never tasted anything like it till I tried bunkers hill milk !!! I struggle now when out and about to order a hot drink because of the taste of shop bought milk!! Bunkers have spoilt !! Go and visit the family are amazing and you couldn't ask for a better bunch :)" Gemma Edwards, Cliburn
"Congratulations on winning Dairy Farmer of the Year, well-deserved for the whole team at Bunkers Hill. Testament for the excellent milk being produced and sold. Happy to support the farmer rather than lining the pockets of the supermarkets." Simon Pluckrose, Penrith, Cumbria
Raw Milk Articles:
The quality of some of the images below are poor and some of the wording are challenging to decipher. Click on the images for a larger view.
Bunkers Hill Dairy: